Flu shot refusal a right

Hospital workers should be able to refuse flu shots without being fired.

In August, New York Health Commissioner Richard Daines mandated that New YorkâÄôs 500,000 health care workers receive the flu vaccination by Nov. 30 or face fines or job loss. His reasoning: âÄúThe welfare of patients is, without any doubt, best served by the very high rates of staff immunity that can only be achieved with mandatory influenza vaccination.âÄù Many health care workers in the state, from nurses to nutritionists, felt Daines had overstepped his authority, and brought civil rights suits against the state. These workers won a small victory last week as Thomas J. McNamara, an acting justice of the state Supreme Court, issued a temporary restraining order against the mandate. Hospitals should preserve the right to temporarily suspend employees who refuse to take the vaccine but not fire or fine them. And this aggressive approach should focus on employees who administer care, not the clerical workers the mandate targeted as well. The policymakers behind the vaccination requirement do have patientsâÄô best interests in mind, as some patients, especially chronic, immune-suppressed patients for whom influenza is life-threatening. But Daines has to balance this with workers rights. Doctors and nurses should always be prepared to make sacrifices to protect their patients, but the government should never mandate any substance into the body of a dissenting individual, health worker or otherwise. To do such is authoritarianism.